It is a common practice in many countries for parents to enroll their young children in early education programs. There are many factors that motivate parents to leave their children in the care of education professionals for a portion of the day outside of school hours. A common reason for this is scheduling. If both parents work, it can be hard to provide the stimulating, nurturing environment children require. This is one way after school programs can be a valuable resource to parents.
While it is, of course, important for parents to know their children are safe and being cared for while they are occupied, this is not the only reason they will enroll their kids an after school program. These programs offer active, social environments that can greatly benefit early child development.
Parents expect after school programs will offer a curriculum of activities that promote early child care development to keep their children on track, and developing at the right pace for their age. In order to create an after school program that incorporates all of these important elements, providers must understand what early child care development is, and why it is important.
In this post, we’ll clarify exactly what we mean by early child care development, explain why it’s important, and provide some ideas and activities for provider to more successfully promote it.
What Is Early Child Care Development?
Early child care development is the educational foundation children receive between birth and eight years old, which can have a lasting impact on their performance in school and professionally for years to come. These programs give children the opportunity to develop greater social and cognitive skills among other children and adults. Successful programs promote emotional, linguistic, cognitive, physical, and motor development.
Why Is Early Child Care Development Important?
Early development initiatives make for happier, healthier children who are better equipped to have success in their education, professions, and relationships.
Over one million neural connections are formed every second in the first few years of a child’s life. Social and emotional abilities developed through the activities and interactions experienced in early education assist in the formation and development of cognitive skills. This lays the groundwork for further brain development moving forward.
Early child development initiatives are also important because experienced childcare professionals are able to closely monitor their students to ensure they are developing at the proper pace. If it appears that a student is not learning or moving at the same rate as their classmates, instructors can coordinate with parents to give the student individualized attention in that specific area.
Seeing each child interact with their peers gives early educators a unique perspective for how to best monitor and enhance their development.
10 After School Program Activities to Promote Early Child Development
To ensure children get the most out of after school programs, the activities offered should facilitate their development in one or more of the fundamental areas previously mentioned (emotional, linguistic, cognitive, physical, and motor development).
We’ve outlined ten ideas and the specific developmental functions they augment to help busy childcare providers better manage after school programs. With this information, early educators can ensure the highest quality care, as well as happier, healthier kids.
Emotional and Social Development
These areas of child care development require children to learn impulse control, form positive relationships with kids and adults, and how to articulate and respond to their emotions and the emotions of others.
1. Mood Charades: This is a fun, active way to teach kids what different emotions are, and how they are often physically expressed. Write out different emotions so that each student gets the chance to act out one or more emotion. A few examples are hopeful, confident, nervous, etc. Have kids raise their hands when they have a guess as an additional way to incorporate impulse control.
2. Inside Out: The recent movie Inside Out is a valuable resource for educators to teach children about emotions, impulse control, and social cues. Watch the movie with your class and come up with discussion questions using the characters and their actions for examples to help kids understand how they should respond in similar situations.
Language Skills Development
These skills help kids understand how to communicate with others by recognizing what words mean, articulate thoughts, and understand communication and direction from others.
3. Perform Skits: Acting out everyday scenarios using descriptive language and talking through each action you are performing can help students learn normal conversation patterns and social cues in everyday situations. For example, have a “dinner” or go on a picnic. While sitting around the table or have the kids describe their favorite and least favorite things to eat.
4. Guessing Games: Being descriptive can help kids better understand the meaning behind speech. Put students in pairs and give them an object, scene, or person to describe and have the other students guess until they get it correct.
Cognitive Skills Development
Cognitive skills help kids to reason, focus their attention on a task, and remember past activities.
5. One of These Things is Not Like the Other: Dolphin, Whale, Crab, Cow. These kinds of games help kids discern patterns and understand how things associate. Bring in props, like stuffed animals to give visual examples. Then have students explain their reasoning behind their choice. Cows are not aquatic, so they are not like the other.
6. Hide and Seek, Simon Says: These games help kids develop their problem-solving skill, in addition to expanding their attention spans and focus, as they concentrate on the rule of the game and completing a specific task.
This refers to developing the large muscle groups that allow children to perform large physical movements, like walking down stairs, or running.
7. Races: Have students compete is small races doing different movements such as hopping, skipping, or jumping to a certain point. These different types of movements will improve their balance and coordination.
8. Freeze Dance: Put on a song for the students to dance to. When the music stops, they have to freeze and be perfectly still. This is a fun and active way to improve balance.
Motor Skill Development
Motor skill development refers to the smaller, more detail-oriented tasks done with your hands, such as writing, or tying a shoe.
9. Art Projects: Doing art projects like drawing with chalk, sculpting something out of Play-Doh, or cutting out shapes with scissors is a good way to strengthen kid’s hands and fingers, and make them more self-sufficient when performing smaller, more delicate tasks.
10. Building Blocks: Another way to facilitate the development of fine motor skills is building with smaller blocks or Legos. Give kids a specific design or shape to make and have them build it by piecing together each properly shaped block.
When parents enroll their children in after school programs, they trust that a professional staff is giving them the mental and physical stimulation they need. Because of the lasting impact early experiences have on children, it is important that the curriculum of these programs is designed to foster and monitor early development to ensure children are on the right track. By following these examples and targeting these areas of development, childcare providers ensure a fun curriculum that will make their students happy and healthy.
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